Following is a transcribed excerpt from Fox News Sunday, Dec. 1, 2002.
TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: President Bush recently dropped his opposition to creating a commission to answer the question, how were terrorists able to strike on September 11, 2001?
He chose former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to head the panel. Democrats chose former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell to join the panel. Both of them now join us from our New York studios.
Also here with questions, Fox News contributor Mara Liasson of National Public Radio. Mara?
MARA LIASSON, FOX NEWS: Dr. Kissinger and Senator Mitchell, I want to ask both of you, what is the first question that you want answered?
SNOW: Dr. Kissinger first.
HENRY KISSINGER: Our charter is (inaudible) circumstances that led to September 11th. And I really haven't formed one specific question. The charter that we have covers a broad range, from diplomacy to port security, and we will have to get to work on each of these. And we, once our commission is formed, we will have an early meeting and make assignments of how to pursue the subject.
LIASSON: Senator Mitchell?
KISSINGER: We want to make sure that when it's finished, the American public and the president know all the facts that are available.
GEORGE MITCHELL: In a very broad sense, what happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.
And, as Dr. Kissinger said, our objective will be to conduct the most thorough, fair, non-partisan inquiry that is humanly possible, and to do everything we can to assure the American people that everything is known about these events and the facts and circumstances leading up to them, and every reasonable recommendation that we can think of will be made to prevent such attacks in the future.
LIASSON: So, Senator Mitchell, do you see your primary mission as establishing a historical record or coming up with recommendations to shape future policy?
MITCHELL: I don't think either is primary. I think we have to do both.
KISSINGER: The president...
SNOW: Dr. Kissinger, do you look upon — I'm sorry, go ahead.
KISSINGER: The president, in making the announcement, has specifically asked for recommendations that can be implemented.
SNOW: Dr. Kissinger, do you look upon what happened September 11, 2001, primarily as a failure of intelligence? And is that the key area of examination for this panel?
KISSINGER: I do not have a preconceived notion, and I believe that we have to approach it across the whole range of issues that the legislation requires, which goes from diplomacy to the police effectiveness.
SNOW: Senator Mitchell, so we've gone through this, you're trying to figure out what the charter is. When do you think you will have a full commission assembled and ready to go?
MITCHELL: The law requires that all of the members be named by December 15th. And as soon as they are named, then we'll get the commission together. Dr. Kissinger will call a meeting, and we'll begin the task of building a staff, organizing the inquiry.
We have a year and a half to do it. That's a tight time frame, given the immense scope of what we're asked to do. But I think if we proceed aggressively, thoroughly, then I think we can uncover what happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.
SNOW: Senator Mitchell, Senator Joseph Lieberman has suggested that the panel ought to be interviewing presidents, including President Bush, presumably President Clinton and maybe even the first President Bush.
Do you anticipate interviewing former presidents of the United States, and if so, under what auspices?
MITCHELL: We haven't made any judgment in that regard. As of now, there is no commission. Secretary Kissinger is the chairman- designate, I'm the vice chairman-designate, but we don't have the other eight members. It would be insulting to them and presumptuous for us to now say we're going to interview X, Y, Z and when.
All I will say is that Secretary Kissinger and I have talked, and we are in complete agreement that this is going to be very thorough. It will be an aggressive inquiry. We will discover everything that we possibly can that occurred, and we're going to leave no stone unturned.
We'll deal with those specific issues — who we interview, at what time — when those arise in the ordinary course of events.
LIASSON: Dr. Kissinger, you have a lot of clients around the world, and I'm wondering how you can reassure the public that you're going to be able to follow any lead wherever it goes, even if it's not in the interest of some of your clients?
KISSINGER: First of all, I can't even imagine any conflict between — putting before the American public, the facts and the view — and I don't even know what the views of my clients would be.
KISSINGER: But I have served six presidents in various capacities. And this is a national service, and it will be carried out, and you will all be able to judge by the results.
SNOW: Dr. Kissinger, Senator John Kerry has just said on another broadcast that he things that you ought to sever ties with clients who might in fact come under purview here. I don't know if that includes the Saudis. I'm not sure he was even specific.
But you have heard the arguments, you've been reading the press, like everybody else. And the question arises whether there may be conflicts of interest and whether you are willing, at least for the time being, to step away from clients who might be involved in some of these investigations. Would you do so?
KISSINGER: If there are any clients that are involved in investigations, I will certainly sever my relations with them. But I cannot conceive that there will be any. But if there should be, I will sever my relations with them.
SNOW: Senator Mitchell, as you know in politics, as soon as anybody gets appointed to a position of prestige, they immediately become a target. You and Dr. Kissinger both were criticized by The New York Times.
My question to you is, would you also sever ties to any clients who might come under scrutiny in the course of this investigation?
MITCHELL: Yes, of course. Although, I will say, Tony, maybe I've got a thicker skin than you, I didn't think the New York Times was critical of me. But I'll accept your characterization of it.
The fact of the matter is that there are not conflicts to the best of my knowledge. But certainly, should someone that we, I personally or my law firm, is now representing that is a subject of this inquiry, then there would be no question about that. I don't think — I think that's very unlikely to occur, certainly is not now the case.
But everyone should be assured that this is our highest priority. We will do whatever is necessary to conduct a very thorough investigation and to provide a report that can reassure the American people. And nothing will stand in the way of that.
LIASSON: Well, specifically, questions have been raised about the cooperation of Saudi Arabia, the role of Saudi Arabia in the attacks. How aggressive do you think you can be, Dr. Kissinger and Senator Mitchell, in investigating the Saudi role? And what kind of cooperation do you expect from the Saudis? Dr. Kissinger first.
KISSINGER: Following the money trail and following any other foreign encouragement or support will be one of the principle tasks of our commission. And we will follow it where the facts will lead us, as I said in my opening statement.
MITCHELL: We are going to be very aggressive and thorough in pursuing this investigation with respect to any area of activity, any country involved, any group. You have singled out Saudi Arabia. We are going to apply the same strict standard to Saudi Arabia and to everyone and anyone else who may become a subject of this inquiry.
SNOW: Senator Mitchell, do you think the Saudis have been unfairly singled out? They have been the subject — Prince Bandar's wife, for instance, in some pieces this week, Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. — in some pieces in The Washington Post. Do you think they have been unfairly singled out, or are they in fact a source of concern?
MITCHELL: Well, Prince Bandar has been in the United States for a long time. He said he understands the American political system. And you just said a few minutes ago, Tony, that when you get involved you become a target.
I will let others be the judge about whether they are unfairly or not singled out. But I want to make clear that from our standpoint, we are going to conduct a thorough and aggressive inquiry with respect to anyone and everyone individual, organization, entity or country that falls within the purview of this inquiry.
SNOW: Dr. Kissinger?
KISSINGER: Absolutely our joined view. We will pursue any lead and we will pursue any line of inquiry that leads us to this goal. And we will — there will be no preferences and no favors.
SNOW: All right. Dr. Henry Kissinger, Senator George Mitchell, I want the thank you both for joining us. Also, best of luck as you assemble the panel and proceed on your very important work.